Sunkosh region lay foundations to reap fruits from the GMC

The flora and fauna rich Sunkosh region in Tsirang, coupled with its breathtaking scenery, warm climate and lush green environs is getting a massive facelift through the construction of ecotourism amenities. Inspired by the birth anniversary of Gyalsey Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck and the Gelephu Mindfulness City (GMC) in the hindsight, the Tsirang Forest Division boosted this initiative through the construction of various ecotourism amenities in Sunkosh Chiwog.

Tsirang’s poverty rate stood at 19.5 as of the year 2022. Forestry officials said that the project would help improve the livelihoods of the rural people and also enhance the betterment of the entire nation.

“This project may just be the tip of the iceberg in the Dzongkhag’s ongoing efforts to get the region ready for the GMC project so that the rural people living along the entire stretch can churn out the maximum benefit from it,” a dzongkhag official said.

Tourism facilities including a campsite, nature trail, hot stone bathing facilities, and village homestays were inaugurated at the Sunkosh Village in Rangthaling Gewog.

A resident of Rangthangling Gewog said, “We don’t have any other income source in Sunkosh. We have farmland but we cannot grow cash crops like oranges and cardamom. Some of us earn our living as daily wage earners. We are expecting a lot from facilities like this because we can earn income when visitors visit and use the services.”

Although Sunkosh village has high-end recreational fishing services and is known to be a habitat for the endangered White-Bellied Heron, not many people visit the village. According to the people, the village does not indulge much in tourism-related activities. So, to help villagers make income through ecotourism, the forest division has installed ecotourism amenities.

These shared efforts aims to promote sustainable tourism, enhance community well-being, contribute to the economic development of the region, and promote Sunkosh as a tourism destination. The management of these amenities has been entrusted to the Devithan Community Forest Management Group (CFMG) which has 28 members with the objective of improving livelihoods and increasing income generation for the Sunkosh communities. Beyond providing financial opportunities, the initiative seeks to instill a sense of accountability and ownership among community members.

Through a collaborative partnership between Divisional Forest Office, Rangthaling Gewog Administration, and Tsirang Dzongkhag Administration, a 1.5 km nature trail and an eco-campsite were developed with funding support from the Royal Society for the Protection of Nature (RSPN) Bhutan under the ongoing BMUV-IKI project. Additionally, hot stone bathing facilities were established by the Divisional Forest Office in Sunkosh Village with the support from the Asian Forest Cooperation Organization (AFoCO) project.

The forest division with funding from AFoCO constructed a hot stone bath facility with a guesthouse. There are two bathtubs. The visitors have to pay Nu 500 per bathtub for an hour. Though the facility was formally opened last week, it has been providing the service to the public since November last year. More than 150 individuals already came to avail the service at the facility.

Towards the lower end of the village, the division constructed a one-kilometre eco trail funded by the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN). The trail takes through the lush forest overseeing the Sunkosh river, offering visitors an opportunity to watch the white-bellied herons. There are canopies and a toilet for visitors.

The other amenities include Sunkosh Eco-Campsite and sale outlets. The campsite will cater to tourists visiting for recreational fishing and the sales outlet will provide a space for the members to market their farm produce.

Meanwhile, landowners and business owners along the highway are expecting a boost in their income too, with investors visiting in droves in the lookout for lucrative deals.

Tashi Namgyal from Tsirang